Arbitration Clauses: What's Hidden In The Fine Print Can Take Away Your Rights

Author: Bridget N. Long, Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney

If your son or daughter has ever been to a birthday party at an indoor trampoline park or other amusement facility, you probably signed a waiver saying that if he or she got hurt while there, you couldn’t have their personal injury case decided in a court of law.  Instead, you agreed to go through a private arbitration process and have any final award decided by an arbitrator. As a parent, it can be nearly impossible to tell your child they can’t participate in an activity because the facility has an arbitration clause. In many cases, parents don’t even bother to read the fine print at all.

The seventh amendment protects your constitutional right to settle disputes in a court of law. At the same time, you are free to waive this constitutional protection by entering into a valid contract. Mandatory arbitration clauses state that in exchange for a good, service or employment you give up your right to take any dispute to a court of law for resolution. Instead, you agree to have an arbitrator decide whether you have a claim at all and, if you do, how much it is worth. Taking the issue away from the courts and placed behind a closed-door arbitration designed by the very company your suit is against can be a serious detriment to your recovery. 

 As a consumer, you enter into contracts every day for everything from cell phones to nursing home care – even when you buy your groceries using coupons. Hidden in the fine print of many sales and employment agreements are dangerous arbitration clauses.  Often, consumers and employees don't know they've signed-away their legal rights until it is too late.

“Take Justice Back” is a grassroots campaign organized by the American Association for Justice.[1] This group recognizes the danger in forced arbitration clauses and has generated an awareness campaign to combat the proliferation of this potentially harmful practice. If you are interested in learning more about forced arbitration clauses and your rights visit their website at: www.takejusticeback.com/TheFinePrint.  

About The Author: Bridget Long is an experienced Richmond, VA trial attorney and has been listed as a Rising Star by Virginia Super Lawyers Magazine for the past 6 years.


[1] To learn more about the “Take Justice Back” organization, visit their website at: http://www.takejusticeback.com/who-we-are.

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